Dec 12

A morning with The Prittle Brook Community Group

It’s my favourite day of December, apart from the obvious of course. Wonder how many bags we’ll get today. I hope Number 11 has got a replacement blue bin. Last week there was food all over the road.

 I did mention we’re going for tea and cake after didn’t I? Yes, I sent emails and texts and phoned Rosemary and Bill. Reckon I’ll have enough money in our collection pot for at least six of us. Still got a bit left from that £20 I found on the pavement last year.


“Come on fellas, here comes the blue bin. The handle’s still broken. I’ll knock it over and we can get to that fish I can smell. Oh here we go. Dust carts coming up the road now. Best get out of the way don’t want to end up as a flat pack meal for carrion along with that pile of mushy chips.”


“Did you watch I’m a Celebrity final at the weekend Dave?”

“Yeah Steve, what a load of rubbish!”

“Foxes been out again.”

“Yep…wish we ’ad time to pick this lot up. We’ll get the blame, you know.”

“I know. We don’t have time, there’s snow on the way and anyway we’re not paid for picking up what’s on the road, only for emptying the bins.”

“In three weeks we’ll have the turkey carcasses to deal with. Don’t you just love Christmas?”


If Bill comes today, he can take the barrow and I’ll wheel the shopping trolley. Should have taken it last month. Can’t believe somebody dumped a boiler part. It weighed a ton.

 Hope I can persuade them to wear the Stop the Drop hi-vis jackets especially as it looks like snow. We need some retractable litter pickers. These ones we bought with the money from the council are great but too big to cart about for two hours.

 Must contact the council about these broken ones. Paul said they wouldn’t be a problem to replace and next time I’m in their offices I’ll get some pink sacks.

 Got to apply for another Tesco Clubcard, now I’ve read about Can Man on the Litter Action blog. I could put the money towards more equipment. I hope the workman replaced the bins along the new pathway. It took so long to get them. That reminds me I must write to David. If he hadn’t got involved we’d probably still be waiting for them. I’ll send him next year’s task dates. I know his diary is probably full already-an MP’s work is never done, but he may have a Wednesday morning free.

Wonder if Councillor James will come out today. Will ask him to promote our next task day in his newsletter. Thanks to his article last December we got another volunteer.  

 Shame the Waitrose ladies couldn’t make it. We always have lovely weather when they come out and they have such a good time. Makes a change from stacking shelves I guess. I’ll ask Karen to write a bit for our next newsletter and I’ll offer to do an update for the Waitrose Chronicle with another photo. I must get the big tidy up certificates done for the volunteers and some ideas for our fifth anniversary next March.


“Thanks everyone for coming out on this wintry day. I’ll just phone the council and tell them we’ve finished our litter pick then we can go for tea and cake. That makes a total of 76 bags for 2012. I don’t like to say well done, because it means the more bags we get the more litter there is but well done us and thanks for all your help this year.”


Oct 12

Breaking our bag habits

Plastic bag monsters descend on Birmingham

We at Lush are very excited to join the coalition for the Break the Bag Habit campaign. It is an issue we have tackled in Lush shops globally with our Bag Monster campaigns in the past, in promoting ‘naked’ products and reducing packaging throughout the business.

At the moment, we offer compostable paper bags made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste and also encourage customers to stow products in their own bags or use a canvas one as an alternative to plastics. The campaign’s focus on a charge fits with our Lush shops experiences in Wales and Ireland, so we are fully aware of the positive impact it could make in England!

Last week, some 90 Lush shops took part in the Break the Bag Habit campaign. Up and down the country, staff were encouraging customers to feed our bag monster bins, support a 5p charge for single-use bags in England and get active in telling the Treasury why it needs to act on this issue.

The biggest campaigning moment so far was travelling to Birmingham and coordinating some 25 Lush bag monsters to descend on the Conservative party conference. Here we met Zac Goldsmith and shared the results of our in-store consultation – with 80% of the 70,000 customers in favour of a 5p charge. As someone attending the day, it was fantastic to see the reactions of passers-by to our huge rustling bag monsters; people were instantly shocked and awed by so much walking waste. The poor council’s litter collector looked very relieved to see us walk on by without dropping anything along the way.

Around the country we also had visits from several other MPs including Caroline Lucas, who met Lush staff in Brighton and heard directly how her constituents felt about the bag problem. We hope the campaign is successful and will be ready to convince the Treasury of its merits again just before the Autumn statement in December.

Aug 12

Encouraging individual responsibility the North Hill way

For many years people in our rural parish of North Hill in Cornwall have been picking up litter. But to some of us it all seemed very random and the parish always seemed littered. Some areas were spotless but most were untouched. We weren’t covering the whole parish and some of us found this very frustrating.

So twelve of us came together and decided that a solution would be for us to parcel up every stretch of lane in the parish. Each of us then took on sole responsibility for one patch. We took a parish map and coloured each patch of lanes to make sure all were covered. Then we each took responsibility for the patch closest to our home.

This scheme has worked really well for several years. The relief for each of us is considerable. We don’t have to worry about litter except in our patch. We can litter pick our patch when we have the time and when needed. When we pass litter in other parts of the parish we can ignore it. We can be confident that another member of the group will have it covered. Other members of the parish may be picking too and that is a bonus.

These signs follow our litter picks promote the 'litter free' message

Our long term aim has to be to prevent litter being there in the first place. Having a much cleaner parish probably does deter some litterers. But we have also invited members of the parish ( farmers, publican, school, garage, football club, village hall committee …) to sign up as partners to the project. They commit in the long term to do what they can to help keep the parish clean. We try to bring other members of the parish on board through pieces in the parish news.

For us the key to having a sustainable anti litter effort is to make it easy for each activist to make an impact with the least amount of effort: individual responsibility for a patch, no group picks that need co-ordinating and no need for everyone to meet.

We do have a core group who meet from time to time to help ensure that we continue to operate effectively and the whole group has a social at the pub once a year. Our equipment is provided by the council. We are insured as volunteers as long as we work to their risk assessment, a simple list for each of us to follow. Twice a year we pick our two B roads, working in pairs with the council team. We know we will never win totally but we do now have a parish that we can be proud of.

Roger Catchpole

Aug 12

From two to two hundred members. EASI does it!

Peter Soul's approach to volunteer recruitment has been very successful

Earley is a town of about 33,000 residents, on the borders of Reading but administratively within Wokingham Borough. It has a strange figure-of-eight shape. The town contains around 380 named roads, long and short, and nearly all residential. The Borough & Town Councils (WBC & ETC) each assume some responsibility for litter-picking, but their efforts inevitably fall far short of what’s needed to keep the litter problem under control.

In March 2010, a friend and I (backed by our residents’ association and local environmental group) approached ETC with a plan to form a group of volunteers who would litter-pick their own roads and nearby paths, if the council could assist by providing litter-picking tools, gloves, hi-vis vests and bags. We said we hoped to gather at least 25 names.

The council’s response was encouraging, and so was born Earley Adopt-a-Street Initiative (EASI). Later, WBC took over the supplying of tools and bags (the latter being collected with the weekly refuse), and both councils still give us much encouragement. As for our membership, this is now 225 and still rising! At a rough guess, it will take about 300 to have the whole town covered. As this indicates, some ‘EASI-streets’ are actually groups of roads. But equally, some long roads need to be partitioned between several volunteers.

Already, five more adopt-a-street groups have formed within the borough following our success, and we’ve received enquiries from elsewhere too. So how have we made such progress in recruiting residents to perform what is on the face of it an unrewarding task? In fact, when the idea is put to them, a surprisingly large fraction of people are indeed willing to put some time and effort into keeping their own street (or even a neighbouring one) clear of litter. And many find that not long after they’ve started, the rate at which litter is deposited falls significantly.

Initially we recruited volunteers (and still do) at annual events such as organized litter-picks and the Earley Green Fair, where our stall attracts interested people who can check, on a large map of the town, whether their Street has yet been marked as Adopted. Personal contact and press publicity have also contributed.

But the most successful recruitment method is delivery of targeted leaflets: these are worded as personally as possible, and tweaked to suit each new stretch we want covered (generally worked out to be between 300 and 500m long). We usually put them through ten doors at a time in each road. If there’s no response after a month, we deliver a further ten leaflets, and so on. More than ten would speed up the process, but would increase the chances of getting two volunteers for a street (which might or might not be an advantage). Overall, one person is recruited for about every 25 leaflets delivered.

Both ETC and existing EASI-members give support by printing and delivering the leaflets. We keep a note of the house-numbers already targeted, to assist the planning of further deliveries. WBC has a most useful website map identifying every house in the borough with its street-number.

We maintain a password-protected Excel file of members’ contact details and their allotted EASI-streets. Of course we don’t circulate this information. The email-address column of the file can be pasted straight into the BCC box of an email, for sending out newsletters, which we do every two or three months. A printed version has to be delivered to the one in ten of our people not on email.

We tell members the names of those litter-picking their adjacent roads, but otherwise almost no-one knows who else is in the group. So, to give everyone the chance to meet up, we started an annual summer bring-food-and-share party (with partners invited). This is greatly enjoyed by all who attend. ETC kindly provides a hall for us free of charge.

I suppose Earley Adopt-a-Street Inititive is the ideal Big Society: many people happily doing an effective job for the community on zero funding, just practical support. (It’s appalling that the job needs doing – but that’s another story.) And once we’ve recruited enough volunteer litter-pickers for every road and footpath in the town, we two founders should be able to sit back and let the group run itself. Or will we find that people drop out and need to be replaced? Anyway, looking back, what we had to set up was … EASI!

Peter Soul


May 12

Cleaning up with the Can Man

The Leicester Can Man at the 2012 Keep Britain Tidy awards

My story began back in 2010, when after falling on hard times with wage cuts at work and after having spent several hours doing voluntary work taking part in river clean ups, i wanted to find a way to do more and help my local area to remove some of the rubbish around the area. I also wanted to find a way to help myself with a bit of extra cash to look forward to at the end of the year.

So  in October 2010, i decided to undertake the challenge of collecting and removing  aluminium drinks cans from the streets of where i live and putting them into the recycling machine at a Tesco store where they have a recycling centre. After doing some research i found the machine gives 1 point for every 2 aluminium drinks cans you put into the machine.

As the weeks went past i found myself spending more and more time going out and collecting cans, there never seemed to be a shortage in the area, and the total amount that i had collected went up and up.

During one evening whilst out and about an off duty Leicester Mercury reporter saw me working away collecting cans, a story was reported in our local paper about my efforts, and to this day i have become nicknamed ‘Can Man’ – partly because of my can recycling but also because of my ‘Can Do’ approach to my efforts. I’ve had a lot of press coverage about my recycling and my work, and also a lot of good responses from members of the public about the difference i make while out and about. This helps me push on further and gives me the determination to make it more of  a success.

My work was recently recognised in the way of a National award from Keep Britain Tidy, in which i was awarded the ‘Local Environment Champion Of The Year 2012’. It’s taken a lot of hard work and can collecting to get recognised for my work, currently nearly 35,000 cans have been put back into the system for recycling, and more importantly taken off the streets, making the place look nicer and cleaner.
I’ve also set up my own website www.canman.org.uk to promote my work and to show what can be done, I highlight my work on my adaptable wheelie bin and also my bike and trailer from which was kindly donated by Bikes4All. I advertise the total i have recycled as i walk and bike around.

The work i have done has also caught the eye of the City Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, and a public event is being staged when i reach the 50,000th can sometime later in the year.

I want to highlight what can be done and i’d like to expand my work with a sponsor. I think it just goes to show what can be done. Recycling rates would be increased dramatically if other items were incentivised like glass for example, and a return of the bottle back scheme, then we could have a new person called the ‘Bottle Man!’

Adrian Ablett

May 12

LitterAction – a personal perspective


Mike Grant takes a different approach to fighting litter

Like you all I detest litter. It seems to be everywhere. Endemic road side rubbish is a particular eyesore that constantly irritates me. Whilst I admire and respect the excellent work that many supporters of Litter Action do in organising groups to pick up litter in their spare time I am not a member of a group. However at times I have been driven out of sheer frustration to litter pick areas close to home, the North Harbour beaches of Eastbourne and a recreational green in Northiam, a village in East Sussex where I previously lived, regularly trashed by teenagers drinking and dumping the detritus of their take away dinners.

Although volunteer litter picking has a great benefit in tidying many blighted environments I do have a fundamental issue with volunteerism. A one off scour does not provide a permanent solution and it cannot be deployed in certain environments such as major highways or rail tracks. However more importantly it abrogates the responsibility under law that a duty body such as the local council or a highways agency has to do the job. If the work of litter picking is done for them there is little need or incentive for the duty body or land owner to provide a service. I accept of course they don’t need much excuse here – local authorities and highways agencies are shockingly insensitive to the mess that is allowed to accumulate in their patch, which then becomes a permanent visual monument to their lack of care. The financial austerity cannot be used as an excuse in my view, although it will be offered. Prior to the 2008 banking crisis and subsequent recession the commitment to and provision of  litter picking services was no better despite the inflation busting council tax rises that we incurred year on year under Labour’s watch.

Over recent years I have taken a different approach to fighting litter other than picking it up. Back to my time in Northiam, after regularly removing rubbish from the public green outside my house, I became fed up with paying council tax and not getting a service, doing the work others should be. This has been a fundamental issue that has shaped my thinking. We are familar with the phrase, “No taxation without representation,” a 1750s slogan to reflect a grievance that contributed to the American War of Independence. Today I think the equivalent should be, “No taxation without service.” We all complain if a company takes our money and provides a shoddy or non existent service or product, so why not complain to a local authority that we pay tax to about a failure to remove litter?

The green was managed by the Parish Council but when I raised the issue of the litter problem, all I received was excuses, a no can do attitude and the dubious advice that I should photograph the teenagers dropping litter and report it to the police. Right. Who are you kidding? That’s a sure fire way of being accused of being a paedophile. Subsequently I learned the green was held on a lease by the Parish Council with the District Council as the freeholder. On inspection of  the lease I discovered that it contained a clause that it had to be kept in a clean and tidy condition. I subsequently brought the matter to the attention of the District Council solicitor who concurred and forced the Parish Council to find and pay for a litter picker. After a while he left the village and I took over the job and was paid £50 p.m. for my efforts to tidy the green and a separate playing field. I undertook the work for several years with great satisfaction that the job was done properly; I enjoyed good exercise and fresh air, whilst walking the dog – and was happy in the knowledge I was getting an effective rebate on my Council Tax.

A recent move to Eastbourne has brought new issues with litter. The town centre streets and beaches are kept immaculately clean but Eastbourne has its dirty little corners. The North Harbour beaches, at the edge of town abut private developments of flats and a promenade. It is a beautiful area to live, I am a minute’s walk from uncrowded and uncommercial beaches with a back drop of a old Martello Tower and a sweep of the bay to Hastings. However the beaches are blighted with litter especially dog poo bagged up and dumped by rocks, between groynes and by the Martello Tower. The problem is endemic in Sovereign Harbour, the largest residential and leisure harbour in northern Europe. In one sense it is odd that dog owners bother to carry bags with them, pick up the pooh but then dump it. Then again there are simply no litter bins along the promenade or on the beaches which stretch for just under a mile. The miscreants are not entirely irresponsible – some people are happy to walk around carrying the unsightly and smelly bagged remains of their dogs’ dinners over a long distance to find a bin elsewhere, others are not. I don’t condone it but I understand it.

The council’s response was to issue an well intentioned but ineffective “Dog Poo Fairy” campaign, leaflets and posters to remind the culprits there is no magical person there to remove the bags. I think they have completely missed the point, aside from the fact the irresponsible don’t read these things or change their behaviour, that litter on the ground has to be removed.

And there’s the rub of it, the Harbour suffers from multiple ownerships and responsibilities. The management companies of the North Harbour developments are responsible for the beaches from the high water mark, the Environment Agency from there to the waterline. In reality there was no litter picking. This is a perfect storm for rubbish – no bins and no litter picking. Well to cut a long story short I complained to various people including the management company of my development, to whom I pay a service charge and also found an ally in a local councillor. The management company cleared up litter in their section and now Eastbourne Borough Council have adopted the beaches and are providing a proper litter picking service. The beaches are now much cleaner although promised bins have yet to be delivered.

I’ve rambled on enough now but to close I have also had some success in complaining about roadside litter. I would recommend using the online “Report a Fault” schemes run by local authorities and their highways departments and failing action to telephone complaints to the relevant cleansing department. One of the most satisfying results was the threat of a Litter Abatement Order some years ago on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council about the state of the A21 which resulted in a major clear up. Unfortunately indifference returns, the same areas become blighted again and repeated action is required. Sometimes I can’t be bothered to keep at it and of course life has to be lived. However I am satisfied a Victor Meldrew spirit and a different approach to litter action other than picking it up has achieved something positive over the years and hope others will take up the fight to badger local authorities, highways agencies and other duty bodies to get their finger out and deliver the service we are all taxes paying for. It does not require anything or anyone special. We can all make a difference by complaining to the right people.

Mike Grant

Apr 12

Why do we volunteer to pick up litter?

George Monck from CleanupUK

As the first Guest Blogger on the new LitterAction blog, it struck me as a good idea to go back to basics and to question why we all do what we do when we get involved in litter-picking. And, while I am pondering this question, I have to say that I feel an overwhelming sense of admiration for all the great work that you and your fellow litter-gatherers do – you are an inspiration to everyone who knows about you and what you do and we here at LitterAction firmly believe that the UK’s litter problem simply won’t get solved unless, like you, we all get involved and play our part.

So – why do we do it ? Well, the obvious answer is that we hate the sight of litter spoiling the look of where we live. That may be the only reason that you pick up litter and, if that’s the case, that’s great. Litter does spoil the look of places and, as CPRE’s President Bill Bryson so aptly says : “this country is beautiful – but only from the ankles up”.

But why else do we go out collecting litter ? Some of us enjoy the physical exercise and the fresh air that we can experience while we litter-pick. Yes – it’s a great way of exercising and also achieving something really valuable at the same time.

Others do it as they want their fellow residents to see that dropping litter isn’t a good idea. By being seen out there picking up other people’s rubbish does indeed get the message across to many that they shouldn’t litter and that pride in one’s area is important. And, of course, litter-picking is a great way to educate young (and not so young) people as to why they should put their rubbish in the bin.

Then there is the issue that “litter leads to more litter”. Keep Britain Tidy’s research has shown that people tend to litter more when there is litter already there, that the presence of litter almost gives people permission to drop more litter. So the logical answer to this is to make sure that we keep our neighbourhood free of litter so that there is no incentive for people to drop

But it’s not only more litter that litter itself attracts. It has also been shown that the presence of litter indicates that no one cares about the area (and, more worryingly, that people don’t care about each other) and so criminals think that they will have an easier time if they focus their efforts on that area. Yes – it has been shown that litter attracts crime to a neighbourhood, so that’s a pretty good reason for keeping one’s area free of litter and so feeling a bit safer.

Finally, there is the social benefit of getting together with your neighbours to clean up your area. So many of you do that and enjoy a cup of tea or a barbeque after your hard work. It is such a valuable and satisfying experience. And one thing that we have found with work that we are doing in some of the less affluent areas of England, that community cleanups really can bring a community together. Have a think about this comment from a resident in east London : “The people I met [on the cleanup] are very friendly and I now know that there are very good people in my area”. Wow – that’s a pretty powerful result from what we may have thought is just a simple local cleanup.

So – whatever your reason for wanting to get together with your friends and your neighbours to clean up your area, good on you !

And do please leave your comments on what your reasons are for litter-picking and keeping your area clean and tidy.

George Monck

LitterAction and



Mar 12

Welcome to the LitterAction blog

Dear Litter Action Members

This is the first posting of our new monthly “Guest Blog”. The Guest Blog will involve inviting a different person each month to write a few paragraphs on a litter-related topic close to their heart – there will then be the facility for everyone to submit comments on what the Guest Blogger has written and for a discussion to start. We hope that this will provide a facility of great interest to all of you connected to LitterAction and also allow the facility for us all to share our views.

We welcome as a Guest Blogger anyone at all with an interest in tackling the  country’s litter problem. So that could be one of you or it could be someone you know in your community or it could be someone well-known and in the public eye. The idea is to initiate discussions about the really key aspects of the litter scene, so if anything litter-wise gets your hackles up and you would like to let off steam or if you have any great ideas that you would like to share with other volunteer groups, we’d love to hear from you. We already have kind offers from a number of you who have said that you are happy to write a blog article for LitterAction.

We would like to ask you, please, to let us know at info@litteraction.org.uk if you have any bright ideas about anyone you know (or anyone you know of) who would make a good Guest Blogger. And we would also appreciate any ideas from you about how we can make the Guest Blog work well.

So – please put your thinking cap on and let us have all your ideas. Many thanks and we look forward to hearing from you.

George and Will

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